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Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road, recorded on 28 July 2005, was a live concert given by Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios, specifically Studio 2, where many of The Beatles’ recordings were made.
Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road was meant as a promotion for McCartney’s album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. As the audience was of close friends and selected fans, the concert was intimate in nature and was littered with monologues and song fragments. It was shown on BBC Two in the United Kingdom on 17 December 2005, and on PBS in the United States on 27 February 2006.
McCartney plays left-handed and right-handed guitars, drums, harmonium, double bass, Mellotron, and even wine glasses in a reworking of Wings song “Band on the Run“. He also reworks the Beatles’ track “Lady Madonna“, which he calls “Old Lady in New Clothes“, with a much slower tempo and swung melody line.
The bass McCartney uses on his performance of “Heartbreak Hotel” once belonged to Bill Black, Elvis Presley’s bass player who died in 1965.
With Nigel Godrich, producer of his latest album, offering assistance, McCartney runs casually and charmingly through a set list that includes four songs from the new CD, several reworked old favorites, and some surprises – both very old and impressively new. “Friends to Go,” “How Kind of You,” “English Tea” and “Jenny Wren” are the selections from “Backyard.” In his introduction to “Jenny Wren,” McCartney makes a musical connection to “Blackbird,” then plays it – along with the pre-Ringo Starr Beatles composition “In Spite of All the Danger,” and versions of two rethought Beatles classics.
“Lady Madonna,” with McCartney on piano, is reinvented in a much slower tempo, the same way Eric Clapton transformed “Layla” on “Unplugged.” In the same way, “I’ve Got a Feeling,” stripped of all instrumentation but one acoustic guitar (and stripped, as well, of John Lennon’s tight harmonies and shouting rejoinders) becomes almost a new song. The sense that this “Great Performances” special truly is special kicks in after the first two songs. McCartney, explaining his fondness for the quaint four-track machines at Abbey Road, offers an on-site demonstration. Like Mr. Wizard doing an experiment for eager students, McCartney uses the tape deck’s first track to record the sound as he wets the rim of a partly filled crystal glass. Track two is another glass, filled to a different pitch. On track three, McCartney squeezes a lingering tone out of a Mellotron.
Each time a track is added, we hear the combined effect. And on track four, to complete the experiment, he begins singing – and the wine-glass-and-harmonium backing suddenly becomes the perfect accompaniment for “Band on the Run,” one of his hits with Wings.
McCartney closes the show with another experiment, this time using a computer program and Godrich to record and loop a song made up on the spot. McCartney starts with the barest of bones: him pounding on drums, and an audience encouraged to clap in time (otherwise, they’re blessedly silent during the songs themselves, as much a throwback to another time as the mellotron McCartney plays). Then comes bass, piano, two guitar tracks – and then McCartney steps to the mike, to make up lyrics on the spot.
They’re not great lyrics (“That’s all for now“), but it is great fun. So is McCartney pulling out the upright bass played by Bill Black, Elvis Presley’s bass player, for a solo version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” The film “Let It Be” captured McCartney and company at Abbey Road at their most fractious, but tonight’s special presents him, alone, blessedly at ease.
Abbey Road Studios, Studio 2
This was the 1st and only concert played at Abbey Road Studios, Studio 2.